Mark Sifers: Minturn made me a scapegoat
As the subject of an article and editorial recently published in the Vail Daily, I feel compelled to respond and expand upon the circumstances and facts surrounding the Minturn Town Council’s citation claiming my violation of the town’s nuisance ordinance. Beyond dismissing and disregarding mitigating circumstances in my case, the Minturn Town Council relied on the nuisance ordinance in the citation, yet doesn’t apply it to residents equally and consistently. Council members have neglected to enforce the nuisance ordinance uniformly: it is my understanding that they have contacted nine other people with concerns, but haven’t cited one with my exception.
Making my wife and me (as property owners) an example is at the crucible of the citation. I don’t disagree with the goals expressed by the town’s nuisance ordinance. However, I do disagree with the methods they are trying to use, mainly wielding the ordinance as a “beating stick.”
What distinguishes my citation isn’t the trailer, but my citation is the only one issued. The citation certainly didn’t result from intransigence. The Town of Minturn knew that I wasn’t dismissing their ordinance or entreaties.
The councilors’ main contention is the trailer’s presence on my property. Ironically, the Town of Minturn approved the original application to park it there for a very specific reason ” to accommodate the property’s renovation. The trailer appeared on my property before the nuisance ordinance was made applicable, after the community survey; resided on my property since December 23, 2005, and it wasn’t until July 19, 2006 that the Town of Minturn issued a letter adopting strategies for nuisance ordinances enforcement. Shortly thereafter, a series of personal hardships ensued, including my father’s sudden and lengthy illness in October 2006, which extended to his death in November 2007. I was his primary caregiver, and along with toggling a career and family, couldn’t rapidly respond to all matters. Other items cited by the Town Council, including four immobile cars on my property, resulting from a friend’s tragedies, which left him with little options to safeguard his few belongings. These challenges aren’t excuses, they’re explanations for the delays in removing the trailer and cars from my property.
It isn’t correct to assume or allege that I ignored repeated warnings from the Town of Minturn. Two days after my father died, I went into the Town Of Minturn offices and spoke to Chris Cerimele about a letter I received, explaining my personal circumstances, along with assurances of a full intent to reapply for a permit and complete constructions. His assured me that the town wasn’t being controversial and that things would work out.
Unfortunately, things did not work out. The Town of Minturn denied a subsequent application for a time extension to remove items, as was an appeal, culminating in the Vail Daily article that spotlighted my citation.
My appearance in this front-page drama results from nothing more than the Town of Minturn’s desire to present an example and a warning. I don’t appreciate being held as an example in such a manner; certainly not when numerous other properties, including some belonging to Town Council members warrant, even demand, citations and publicity. Yes, some of the council members would receive citations if the ordinance was enforced equally and fairly. The most bizarre irony of this episode, council member Shelly Bellm stored two large stacks of bricks on her property, which originated from the same person whom I assisted with car storage after his hardship. As the Vail Daily noted, bricks stacked in residents’ yards constitutes a nuisance. In addition, other council members store boats at their Minturn residences that aren’t properly fenced. Then there the infractions not addressed in the article or by the Town of Minturn, such as the abandoned cars scattered throughout Minturn.
According to Town Council member Jerry Bumgarner, these relics languishing on Minturn properties have remained ignored for at least four years.
Acting on good faith, I have since removed three of the four cars cited. I currently in the process of relocating the fourth. I am addressing the contested trailer at present. The Town of Minturn answered my acts of good faith with an act of its own ” discrimination.
As a lifelong resident and current property owner, I have witnessed Minturn’s evolution from an afterthought of the mining and railroad eras to an international destination. I like the improvement of the town’s aesthetics and, as a property owner, I have no grievance with the appreciation of property values that accompanies the town’s reputation. More substantial to appearance is character and personality. It can’t be codified nor bought. But many Minturn locals worry the town will sacrifice identity in pursuit of escalating real estate values, including the long-time tradition of neighborly mores, attitudes and ideals. Minturn is an authentic town that existed long before winter sports reinvented Eagle County. I hope the town’s character can survive rushes to judgment and quick bucks, and retain the character that separates it from other Eagle Valley communities.
My primary passion is preserving the town’s character of my childhood. I take offense at becoming a hometown scapegoat; singled out with a citation and, more egregiously, several accusations of insouciance, defiance and neglect. I have made diligent efforts to respect and abide by the town of Minturn’s rules, regulations, orders, ordinances and laws. I will continue to do so, but please, let’s dispose of the animosity ” and the unequal application of those aforementioned rules, regulations, orders, ordinances and laws.
Mark Sifers is a Minturn resident.